Recap: Talking COVID-19 initiative and all things bridal with Celest Thoi
From bridal to hospital gowns
Think of a local bridal designer and we're sure Celest Thoi will come in mind. Having been in the industry since 2004, Celest and her eponymous label have been making brides' dream come true with her beautiful creations. Amid this difficult time, Celest has been one of the first few designers who jumped onboard to help out with Malaysian Official Designers' Association (MODA)'s PPE initiative. Two weeks after our local designers kick-started the campaign, we spoke to Celest on their latest progress, how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting her business, bridal trends and more:
Below, some highlights from our BURO. Hangouts: Live session:
Why is it so important for you to be onboard to help out with this PPE fundraising initiative?
My husband shared a video of hospital staff making their PPE after or in-between their shifts, and we were thinking: "Why are they sewing? They should be looking after the patients and taking a rest if they're not." So I called Melinda Looi and things just started rolling from there. We're all trying to help out as much as we can. We've been seeing news where the Italian frontliners are falling and it can't happen here.
You've been taking on many responsibilities, including sourcing for fabrics, distributing, sewing, and helping to deliver them. It must have been tough. What has been the biggest challenge?
The hospital frontliners are in need of and requesting so much PPE in such a short period of time, and sewing requires time. So the biggest challenge is definitely time—to get the PPE to them as much as possible, and as soon as possible. But I'm very grateful to have Getha onboard. My friend, Melissa, called me to offer her help, and her workers and staff are all very helpful in producing and expediting the whole process.
I have many friends and business partners who have offered to help. There are so many kind souls out there—if they can't sew, they're donating money to the fund, and some are helping us acquire fabrics and materials. We recently ran out of zips—it's a small thing but it's such a crucial piece for the PPE-and I had kind friends who helped to call warehouses that are closed to inquire and also to sponsor, so I'm really thankful and blessed.
How is the pandemic affecting the bridal business, and yours in particular?
As you know, we can't have gatherings and weddings now and I feel really bad because a lot of my clients who were supposed to get married in March and April had to cancel or postpone everything because of the MCO. We don't know what's going to happen because everything is so uncertain right now. I had a client who's supposed to get married at Lake Como and she had to cancel everything, so I really feel for her.
Business-wise, I'm really just going with the flow because we really don't know what's going to happen—even my clients who are getting married at the end of the year don't know if they could go on with their plans as well.
Are you and your team currently doing any virtual consultations?
We're still sending out some sketches and doing some consultations via WhatsApp, but not virtually on Zoom or anything like that.
What are some of the bridal trends that are popular in Malaysia?
I think Malaysians are pretty safe. From my understanding and experience, a lot of them will stick to the mermaid or trumpet-cut with some convertibles here and there, like a sleeve or an overlay skirt. Thanks to Kate Middleton, sleeves have become a popular choice among our clients, but not everybody can carry it. It applies to Singaporeans as well. Expectation-wise, as a bride, they're pretty similar. Brides who come to me are usually very well-travelled and well-informed, so they know the kind of aesthetic my brand offers.
Did Meghan Markle's wedding dresses sparked as big of a trend as Kate Middleton?
No, I didn't see that kind of effect. Until now I still get people showing me Kate Middleton's dress—I think it's the way she carried the gown, and how classic and timeless it is. Whereas Meghan Markle's was a little too simple.
What bridal trends would you like Malaysian brides to try?
Bigger gowns are actually trending this year, but I know a lot of brides have a very good figure and they want to show it off.
Has there been a surge in gowns with pockets?
Not really, but I did design a few. Even though you have pockets, you can't put much in there because you'll be able to see a bulge. It's best to ask your bridesmaid to carry your makeup and fragrances in a little pouch—I think that's more practical.
What are some of the mistakes brides should take note of if they're designing their dress?
It's very easy to scroll Pinterest and save everything that's nice and pretty, but we also need to think of the practicality, how can we gather as many elements a bride wants into one dress, for example if she showed us 10 different back designs as reference. It's best to know what you like, what style you're looking for, and the look and feel you want to create with the venue in mind.
Also, don't let too many opinions affect you. Sometimes, they bring their whole entourage to my shop and since different people have different opinions about the dress, the brides end up getting more confused. I always believe that a bride should wear something comfortable and screams 'her'.
What are your thoughts on guests wearing white to a wedding?
White is a no-no for guests, because it'll seem like you want to upstage the bride. In Chinese weddings, red is also reserved for the bride to wear since it's a very outstanding colour, so it's best not to overstep your boundaries.
Wedding gown suggestions for different body shapes?
I believe every girl has a nice curve. So if you have a slim and slender frame, you can don a silhouette that's more fit-and-flare, or something that's a bit more body-hugging so it shows off your figure. For those who are curvier and voluptuous, we've dressed a few in mermaid silhouettes, but A-line is always the most flattering for all figures.
I'll always recommend designs according to how comfortable a bride is and what kind of wedding is she going to have. The venue comes in cohesively, and they're all equally important. You can't be wearing a ball gown at a beach wedding.
What's the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
My clients, and seeing how beautiful the bride is on their wedding day. Some of them will even send thank-you notes after the wedding and they'll share videos and photos. That's the most fulfilling part of my job, seeing how happy and beautiful they are on their big day. That keeps me going.
What are your hopes for the bridal industry in general?
I hope that the bridal industry can be a bit more transparent. I've heard from clients who signed a certain package and they felt cheated and had to forgo their deposit in the end, because they were expecting to be wearing a few certain gowns, but they were offered other designs instead. Those packages have a lot of add-ons and hidden costs, and since brides have a budget to work with, it's not very nice in that sense. Whereas a-la-carte services like mine, what you see if what you get.
Our third BURO. Hangouts: Live schedule is out! Find out who are our guests here.